(Honorable mention in Writer’s Carnival’s Create a Creature contest!)
Faye stared through the trees into the open fields. She sighed as she watched the other children laughing and playing without her. This was life in the enchanted country: every seventh day, when the sun was high, the youth would engage in a friendly game to see who could put on the biggest show of magic. And during every game, Faye watched from afar with a heavy heart. It never mattered who among her peers won; she envied every single one of them.
All dragons were born with a beautiful coat of iridescent scales that shone as bright as diamonds in sunlight and that functioned as the source of their magic. All but a rare few. Roughly once a century, a hatchling was born with pure white scales that didn’t so much as glimmer when the sun touched them. Such individuals were dubbed Achromatic, and for their dull appearances that left them powerless, they were considered inferior to normal colorful dragons. Faye was one of the unlucky few.
“Monochrome!” “Colorless!” “Pale-face!”
The other drakes’ taunts had driven her to hide in the forest during their magic contests. As always, Faye watched silently as they showed off the powers they so often seemed to take for granted, trying to guess who would win this time. She knew the fire dragons usually placed first in this game, their red-and-gold scales absorbing enough light to shoot their fiery breath as high as the treetops. Sometimes the blue-green dragons achieved victory with strong jets of water, while yellow and orange dragons scored an occasional win by conjuring small yet powerful tornados. She had even seen an earth dragon win once (she later learned it had taken him a month to store enough solar energy in his brown scales to split that boulder in half). The magic displays were essentially the same every week, and today was no different from any other match day.
Except for Faye’s plan to change her life.
Two weeks ago, a traveling dwarf had stumbled upon the Crystal Cave that the Dragon Clan called home. In exchange for shelter for the night, he had shared half the gold in his pack and stories of his travels across the world. The children were especially fascinated by his tales of humans, with whom they had been warned for as long as they could remember that they should never interact. It was the main reason they weren’t allowed outside at night: they couldn’t risk running out of magic when the sun wasn’t up to regenerate it.
“Humans? Bah!” The dwarf scoffed at his juvenile audience. “Demons, more like! Tear ya down soon as look at ya! Darn near lost me leg to ’em last summer! Caught me in a snare and wouldn’t let me go ’til I told ’em where to find the witch!”
“Witch?” one of the older scarlet girls whispered in awe. The traveler nodded.
“Ay, a folktale from the olden days. The stories differ: sometimes she’s a witch, other times an angel. Human children even call ‘er a fairy queen. But they’re nothin’ but stories. I told ’em all I’d heard, but I never seen ‘er meself.”
“How do you find her?” asked a cyan-scaled boy. The dwarf laughed.
“When the moon’s full, find a clearin’ in the heart o’ the woods with a pool o’ crystal clear water. Close yer eyes and make a wish, and if ya believe with all yer heart, the witch’ll appear and make it come true.”
The very idea of such an event made the children quiver with excitement.
“Any wish at all?” said an amber drake, her eyes wide.
“I s’ppose it could be”, the traveler mused, then shook his head. “If she was real. But she en’t! I tried ages to find ‘er. Asked all across the land. Been a hundred years since anyone’s seen anythin’ o’ the sort! She just don’t exist! But humans, those buggers are real. Real as these here scars from the time I fought off three at once…”
The children listened intently as the dwarf returned to his stories about humans, but Faye, ever silent in the back of the group, couldn’t take her mind off the tale of the witch. That was it: her one chance at a better life. If there was even the slightest possibility that this omnipotent being did exist, surely she wouldn’t object to such a simple request as coloring the scales of an Achromatic dragon. It was worth a try.
Since the new moon when the dwarf had passed through, Faye had had two weeks to prepare for her big wish. While the other drakes practiced their magic, she spent the days scouring the forest until she finally found the clearing. All that was left to do was choose a color. Unfortunately, hours of watching her peers proved this was harder than it seemed, and by the time night fell, she still hadn’t reached a decision.
I’ll figure it out when I get there, the white drake thought as she waited for everyone else in the cave to drift off. Maybe the witch will know…
The young dragon lay still for what felt like an eternity, but at last the entire clan fell asleep. Her heart beating wildly, it was all she could do to keep from shaking as she snuck out of the cave and into the quiet forest. This was it: time to change her fate.
To be concluded next Friday
Welcome to the conclusion of “Beastly Pains”. If you haven’t yet, be sure to read Part 1 here. Enjoy!
The creature pondered the proposal for a minute, then nodded once. “Deal.”
Relieved that he might actually survive this encounter after all, Alexander inhaled a deep breath as he felt the weight of the enormous foot finally being lifted off his chest. While the young man steadily rose to his feet and reached for the sword, the dragon lowered himself to rest his head on the ground.
“Try any funny business, human, and I’ll crush you in my jaws faster than you can say ‘dragon egg’.”
With a polite nod, the teenager approached the beast as he opened his mouth wide. Carefully as he could, Alexander crouched down after dropping his bag and sidled into the dragon’s gaping maw. He subtly covered his nose with his shirt at the overwhelming smell of rancid breath, and he tried hard not to think about the fiery death he’d face at the slightest twitch in the wrong direction. Just another patient, he thought as he gently eased the sword between the large teeth above him. Just another patient…
The human worked at this task for several minutes, sliding the weapon between the creature’s teeth with the utmost caution. Every now and then, the blade would touch something hard and broken pieces of bone would fall out. Before long, Alexander felt the jaws in which his upper body lay tremble slightly as the familiar deep voice echoed out of the darkness that was the dragon’s throat.
“Ai eh-ee-hee eh?”
Assuming those words were supposed to be “find anything yet”, Alexander called out reassuringly, “Yes, almost got it.”
Confident he had found the source of his patient’s pain, the boy dared to stick the sword a little deeper into the gap and scrape the object out. After another minute, the blade jerked and a large saliva-coated deer antler fell on his lap.
The young man grabbed the antler and quickly leapt out of the dragon’s mouth. While he dropped the items in his hands and rummaged through his bag, the beast closed his jaws again and began sliding his tongue over his teeth in relief.
“Much better”, he said. “Your competence surprises me. Good work, human.”
“I’m not quite done yet”, said Alexander, and he pulled a jar of green salve out of his bag. “This will help ease the pain. I made it myself from the herbs by the river.”
Noticing the look of suspicion in the red eyes before him, the teenager made a point of applying the ointment to his own gums first, to prove it wasn’t toxic. Satisfied that he was telling the truth, the dragon opened his mouth again and allowed the human to spread a generous amount of salve over his swollen gums.
“That should do it”, said the boy, shutting the jar and tucking it back into his bag. “In a few days, it’ll be good as new. Just try not to eat any more deer for a while.”
Alexander slung his bag over his shoulder and rose to his feet while the great lizard lifted his head once more. Upon catching sight of the blade lying in the grass before him, he froze. Suddenly nervous, the teenager tentatively turned his head up, his blue eyes locking with the red ones several feet above him.
The dragon stared down at him without moving, and the human recoiled slightly, braced for the worst… But a moment later, the creature bowed his head.
“A deal’s a deal. On my honor as a dragon, you may leave in peace. Now go, before I change my mind.”
Alexander smiled as the beast turned and started back up the mountain. When he was several feet away, the boy suddenly noticed something strange…
“Wait!” he called, and the lizard stopped to look over his shoulder. “You forgot your sword!”
Rows of sharp teeth reappeared in a gesture that the teenage boy perceived as the dragon’s smile.
“Keep it”, he said coolly. “Consider it payment for a job well done, and proof of your virtue. It isn’t just anyone who can earn the trust of a dragon.”
The human grinned and swiftly picked up the golden sword. The creature faced the opposite direction again as he spread his wings. Just before he took off, the young man called out to him again.
“You know… toothaches are a nasty business. They can come back worse if not treated properly. Perhaps I could return on the next full moon to check up on you?”
The beast looked back and nodded once. “Come every full moon, if you like. You can even take a piece of treasure after each visit, as payment for your trouble. Just don’t get greedy.”
Alexander nodded in excitement, then bowed before turning and heading back down the mountain, the great lizard watching his every step. It was then that the dragon dared to say something he had never said before…
“Thank you, human.”
Those words effectively stopped the boy in his tracks. Looking back over his shoulder, he smiled at the creature again.
“Alexander”, he replied. The dragon bowed his head as well.
Grinning broadly, Alexander watched Severoth spread his wings again and take off to fly back to the top of the mountain before turning on his own heel and disappearing amid the trees. There was no doubt he would be telling the story of his run-in with a dragon for years. The villagers would revere him as a hero, and in a matter of months he’d have enough gold for his family to live comfortably to the end of their days, but what he would definitely remember most about his adventure was the excitement of having made an unlikely friend.
Hope you enjoyed the story! Thanks for reading!
“No! Please don’t!”
Alexander dared to open one of his eyes a tiny crack. Where he had previously seen a flash of brilliant green scales, he now saw only rows of long razor-sharp white teeth.
“I’m sorry!” the boy cried, shutting his eyes tight again. “I didn’t mean to, I swear! Please don’t eat me!”
“Silence, mortal!” The beast reared his great head back as he let out a roar that could easily have taken down a tree. “I’ll ask you again, and this time I want a straight answer. What were you doing in my lair?”
The teenager slowly opened his eyes again, and was relieved to find that at least for now, the teeth had receded back into their owner’s mouth. The rancid smell of brimstone breath, however, still hung in the air.
“It- It was a dare.” Alexander looked up to lock eyes with the dragon, so there would be no doubt he was telling the truth. “My friends… I mean, the other boys… they dared me to sneak into your cave and steal a piece of treasure. Just one!” he added hurriedly, as though expecting the creature to rip his head off right then and there. “I only took one, but I’ll never do it again, I promise! You can have it back! Just please let me go!”
The boy shifted slightly, as much as he could while trapped under the dragon’s heavy claws. He flinched at the sight of the beast’s teeth beginning to reappear.
“And what made you think you could get away with it, human?”
“I…” Alexander averted his gaze in embarrassment; he hadn’t anticipated this question. “…I guess I didn’t.”
The dragon narrowed his red eyes slightly, surprised to hear such honesty from a mortal. “What did you take?”
Tentatively, the young man raised himself as best he could under the weight of the great lizard’s foot and reached for an item behind his back, reflecting on his situation as he did so. Why had he accepted such a ridiculous quest in the first place? He was only 17, a simple apprentice to a physician. What did he know about dealing with dragons? Nothing. He had taken on a fool’s errand. And for what? So he could prove the bullies wrong, that he wasn’t a weakling or a coward? Nothing was worth this. Now he was going to die, most likely a very painful death, and there wasn’t a single thing he could do about it. This was the end.
Alexander slowly pulled the stolen treasure out from his bag for the dragon to see. The sunlight caught a golden hilt and illuminated the steel blade of a perfectly crafted longsword. The teenage boy cringed again as the creature’s mouth opened wider, braced for the killing blow…
But it never came. Instead, the dragon let out a thunderous sound that Alexander could only assume was analogous to a human laugh. After a minute or two, the beast’s head moved closer, teeth gleaming in the light as the blade was.
“Clever”, the dragon mused. “You’re much sharper than the last human who tried to steal from me, I’ll give you that. He tried to carry off a bag of gold dinnerware. Much too heavy for him, and it made the most terrible racket when he fled. That was a good night’s sleep wasted. Wasn’t worth the trouble for either of us; he didn’t even taste that good.”
Despite the terror that sent a chill down his spine, the boy couldn’t help but be intrigued by the creature’s observation. Yes, he had indeed chosen a sword so that he might be able to defend himself should he be caught fleeing. It wouldn’t have been too difficult either; a palace guard in his youth, his father had taught him a few things about sword fighting. He just hadn’t counted on the monster ambushing him halfway down the mountain.
His upper body still trapped under a massive scaly foot, Alexander just barely managed to lift his arms high enough to make it clear he was offering back the sword now lying across his hands. The dragon’s eyes narrowed into intimidating slits.
“You’re a curious sort of human”, he muttered, though to a dragon, muttering was equivalent to a human speaking normally. “Most of them put up a fight at this stage of the chase…”
The great lizard lowered his head further, opening his jaws to take the blade from his prey. The human didn’t dare flinch, knowing that one false move could prompt the beast to unleash a stream of fiery breath that he’d have no chance of surviving. The moment those teeth touched the sword, however, the dragon winced, sending the weapon flying from the teenager’s hands to stick into the ground mere inches from his face.
Recovering from the shock of almost losing his left ear, Alexander stared up at the creature with wide blue eyes. Those massive jaws opened to their full extent as the beast reared back and let out a screech that shook the earth beneath them. That was when he noticed a large swollen spot above the fully exposed teeth. His terror giving way to curiosity, the young man lifted his left arm again to point at the gums on the dragon’s right side.
“How did you get that?” he said. The giant lizard looked down to stare at the human in surprise, understanding exactly what he was asking.
“It’s been hurting ever since I ate half that herd of deer two full moons ago. Haven’t been able to bite right in weeks.”
Alexander asked the creature to move closer. Once he did, the boy stared fixedly at his swollen gums for a quiet minute.
“I can fix that”, he said at last. The dragon scoffed as he closed his mouth again.
“How can you do that?”
“It’s easy.” The teenager smiled, suddenly confident. “You probably have something stuck in your teeth. All I need to do is scrape it out.”
The great beast gazed at his prey warily. “What with?”
“Umm…” Alexander glanced awkwardly to his left. Catching on to the human’s idea, the dragon roughly shook his head.
“I don’t think so.”
“But it’s perfect!” the boy cried, facing the lizard again. “It’s thin and sharp enough to get the job done. I’ll be careful, I promise! You don’t have to worry about a thing.”
The dragon narrowed his eyes in suspicion. “How do I know I can trust you?”
“I help heal the aches and illnesses of the people in my village every day. It’s my moral obligation as a training physician. If you promise not to kill me, I’ll fix your teeth, give you back your sword and leave you alone. I’ll even tell the other humans never to bother you again. Deal?”
To be concluded next week
A friend is a gift.
Someone you can talk to,
Someone you can trust,
Someone you love.
A true friend is a treasure.
Someone who talks to you,
Someone who is there for you,
Someone who loves you.
A true friend is
The greatest gift in the world.
And I’ve had one
My whole life.
You teach me much about life.
You talk to me freely about anything.
You watched me grow up
And helped me become
The person I am today.
And still you’re always there for me,
Letting me know you love me.
So thank you for everything
You’ve ever done for me.
Thank you for being a role model.
Thank you for being a leader.
Thank you for being a teacher.
But most of all,
Thank you for being
A friend for life.
Dedicated to my dad, an amazing father and one of the best friends I’ve ever had. Happy Birthday, Daddy! I love you!
I don’t know how I would get by,
I don’t know how I would survive,
I don’t know how I would face the coming days,
If it weren’t for you.
I tolerate their harsh words.
I endure the pain they inflict on me.
I swallow my sadness.
Because of you.
I do get by.
I do survive.
I do face the coming days.
Because of you.
I tolerate their harsh words,
Because I know you will speak to me with kindness.
I endure the pain they inflict on me,
Because I know you will help heal my wounds.
I swallow my sadness,
Because I know you will bring me happiness.
I come home at the end of the day,
I look through my window to the world,
And I smile.
Despite all the harsh words,
Despite all the pain,
Despite all the sadness,
Because I know that somewhere,
On the other side,
There is someone who knows exactly how I feel.
Someone who has heard the harsh words,
Someone who has felt the pain,
Someone who has swallowed the sadness.
Someone out there knows me.
I look through my window to the world,
And I smile.
Because I know that I am not alone.
You lift my spirits.
You make me happy.
You save me.
I look through my window at the end of the day,
And to you, and you alone, I smile and say,
This is an old poem I recently dug up. I wrote it at a time when I often found myself feeling sad, and someone who always helped me get through those blue moments was my best friend. Thankfully I’ve gotten past that phase in my life, but he’s still my best friend, and I love him very much!